Copperas Cove city council looks at $5 million for new animal shelter at Ogletree
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove city council came to a consensus on Tuesday for the city to move forward with plans for a new animal shelter to the tune of nearly $5 million.
The council received an update during its workshop meeting, when it received a presentation from Deputy Police Chief Brian Wyers and Brent Brevard, the architect with Brevard Architecture. The proposed animal shelter had previously been brought to the council several years ago.
Back in December 2017, a needs assessment was completed that revealed the need for space at the current animal shelter. At that time, it showed building costs as much as $8,070,840. At the time, council directed city staff to find a way to reduce the cost to a more palatable amount and revisit the idea of a proposed shelter.
Wyers said that the current total project cost has been reduced by approximately $3 million to come in at under $5 million for construction and non-construction costs, with a size that still accommodates the shelter’s needs and any future growth.
Wyers said he visited several shelters in the state, and the one that caught his eye as far as the cost of the project and what the facility had to offer was in Mount Pleasant, Texas. This facility was designed by Brevard Architecture. Brevard met Wyers at the facility and walked him through the shelter with the administrator.
Shelter Site Selection
Wyers and Brevard shared three site locations in Copperas Cove that the architect has evaluated: in The Narrows near the future site of Fire Station #4 on Charles Tillman Way; by Fire Station #2 on F.M. 1113; and in Ogletree Pass on West Business 190.
Each site was scored based on criteria such as visibility and access from the arterial (main) road; availability of utilities; size for the building, parking and growth; topography for surface drainage; likelihood of neighbor complaints regarding noise; opportunity for adjacent dog park; and minimal paving required.
The site at Charles Tillman Way scored the lowest at 52 out of 85, while the other two sites scored a 66 and a 71 out of 85, respectively.
The Charles Tillman Way site would be a shared site with the proposed Fire Station #4, and the amount of space that the shelter would have needed to take up on that site would have likely been more than what the fire department would be comfortable with, according to Wyers.
The site on F.M 1113 had a depression in the land that would affect the usability of the land for building that caused the facility to move closer to behind the fire station, which would affect the visibility of the shelter.
The Ogletree Pass site would be located at the corner of Ogletree Pass and Five Hills Road. This site was the highest scored site.
“I think it’s a very good site. It’s very accessible. It’s very visible. It’s big enough,” Brevard said.
The city has lots of growth for future facilities planned at Ogletree, but there is still room for the animal shelter and parking and its future growth, and even a future dog park, according to Brevard.
Council member Jay Manning asked why the scoring evaluation included three-phase electric service. Brevard said that this allows the motors and air condition units to run more efficiently and have longevity.
State of the art, larger size, but no need for increased staffing
The proposed facility would also only require two to three employees to operate it, with one running the front desk and dealing with animals coming in and adoptions, while another cleans the kennels and feeds the animals and handles laundry, and a third pitches in where needed.
“One of the things when we looked at this project was that we didn’t want to have to increase staffing,” Wyers said. “We wanted to be able to create a shelter that we could run with the amount of staffing we had.”
The facility will feature air conditioning units powerful enough to replace the air in the kennels every six minutes, 10 times an hour, as opposed to recirculating the air throughout. The one-way air will help keep the animals safe from any other animals who come in with diseases such as kennel cough or parvo or something.
“It’s really common for a shelter to get a disease like that within it, and you lose all the animals you have in your kennels, so all of the shelters still being built in today’s time, they generally work on one-way air,” Wyers explained.
Brevard said that another driving force of the design is the presentation of the animals at the shelter.
“This building is intended to be a destination for people that are interested in having an animal,” Brevard said.
This is seen in how the animals will be displayed at the shelter, which Brevard likened to a pet shop where people can walk in and see them without the aid of a staff person but will be unable to touch them.
The shelter design also features quarantine and isolation rooms for animals that come in sick or intakes whose health concerns are unknown. These spaces will be visible to the public so they can come in and see if a lost cat or dog is at the shelter, even while they safely quarantine/isolate from the other animals.
Currently, the Copperas Cove Animal Shelter does not have a designated quarantine space for its cats, and the shelter has just 12 cat cages for the entire city.
The Copperas Cove Animal Shelter currently has 46 kennel spaces for dogs- including 23 kennels for adoptable dogs, three quarantine runs for dogs and 20 intake spaces.
Brevard said that the design featured 66 adoptable dog kennels and 40 adoptable cat cages. Animals could be doubled in the kennels if space was needed.
Animal Control Officers present at the meeting explained that there was a situation when a cat brought in ended up being sick and contagious, which resulted in other cats and kittens getting sick and/or dying or having to be euthanized.
Another incident brought up from years prior involved all animals in the shelter having to be euthanized due to an outbreak of illness.
Councilmember Dan Yancey asked about the total area footprint for the shelter and the cost per square foot.
Brevard said that the indoor/heated area is a little over 13,000 square feet, and the building footprint, featuring the outdoor kennels, is a little over 14,000 square feet. The facility itself with parking would need about three acres of land, he added.
The cost per square foot equates to around $290 per square foot for construction costs only.
Brevard explained that the construction costs to include site work and landscaping for the project would be $4,130,000. The remaining costs of the project include fees, technology, furnishings, and equipment, which bring the total project cost to around $4.8 million.
“One of the things that I said earlier on…in previous discussion, this shelter is state of the art for a reason. One is that we want people to come in and enjoy being at the shelter,” Wyers said. “We want it to look like you walked into PetSmart. That’s how you adopt animals out. You want it to be a place where people feel comfortable being, not where they walk out worried that they smell like the dogs or cats that they just went to visit, and that’s what today’s shelters are. The price tag for a shelter like this based on my needs assessment in the past was an $8 million project, so I know $5 million or $4.8 million is still a lot of money, I understand that, but if there’s anybody that wants to ask me to whittle this project anymore, I’m going to tell you that there’s no way I can do that.”
Wyers added that if he came to the council with a $2 million facility, it would just be a “band-aid.”
The city council then provided direction on moving forward with the Ogletree Pass site location.
Council member Jay Manning said he did have concerns over whether there would be room for the parks proposed for that area in addition to the shelter, which Yancey also said he had concerns over.
Funding: Certificate of obligation bonds, or let the voters decide?
Wyers and city staff also looked for direction from council on whether to use certificate of obligation bonds for funding, or to have a bond election where voters would decide.
Manning said he previously thought that the city council should make the decision as they’ve been elected to do, but due to the emotional nature of the project, he felt the issue should be sent to the voters in a bond election for General Obligation Bonds. Council member Jack Smith also was in favor of sending the issue to the voters.
However, their fellow council members outnumbered them and came to the consensus on moving forward with utilizing certificate of obligation bonds to fund the project.
The council will take action to approve the city’s annual certificates of obligation in the June time frame, during the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget planning cycle. Certificate of obligation bonds do not require voter approval, unless a petition of 5 percent of the city’s qualified voters is submitted on the spending.